More DetailsHide DetailsAlthough mostly an ingenue screen actress, Shay became well-publicized for her social life and romances. She was chauffeured around Hollywood in a Mercedes-Benz limousine, to the studios as well as parties and events. Although of diminutive stature, her beauty attracted many admirers, and Walter Winchell dubbed her "Hollywood's Pocket Venus". Shay's dates included Errol Flynn, Howard Hughes, Johnny Weismuller, Victor Mature, Roy Rogers and Cecil B. DeMille.
In 1976, director Ken Russell asked her to play an "aged American desperate for attention" in Valentino, his biography of Rudolph Valentino, in which she got to dance with the film's star, Rudolph Nureyev.
More DetailsHide DetailsShay continued to act and make small appearances over the next 30 years including appearances in Candleshoe (1977), Superman III (1983), Death Wish 3 (1985), Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and Bullseye! (1990).
She appeared in the 1974 remake of The Great Gatsby.
Shay took a break from acting during her first marriages. After the second ended, she acted on Broadway in The Sap Runs High. She then returned to Hollywood in 1939 to play Joan Crawford's scene-stealing French maid in The Women.
More DetailsHide DetailsAccording to Shay, her friend Groucho Marx thought she had a gift for comedy and offered to write material for her, but Shay refused because she wanted to be known as a "serious" actress.
Shay remarried in 1936 to Winthrop Gardiner, a member of a prominent New York family descended from Lord Lion Gardiner. After only six months, Shay filed for divorce because of Gardiner's much-publicized affair with ice skater Sonja Henie whom he later married. In 1940, Shay met British army captain Geoffrey Steele and fell in love. The couple married in 1941 amid speculation and bets by the tabloid magazines about how long the union would last.
More DetailsHide DetailsShay said, "Most gave it 3 to 6 months. Nobody gave us forty years." The couple remained married until Steel died in 1987.
During World War II, Shay moved to England with Steele where she gave birth to a daughter, Georgiana. Over the next few decades she frequented Buckingham Palace and became a prominent figure in London society circles.
Shay married Thomas Francis Murphy in 1934.
More DetailsHide DetailsMurphy has been described as an attractive Irishman as well as a drunken philanderer who accumulated large debts. The marriage ended within the year.
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